Flexible working: the business case


There is a huge impetus for flexible working, whether it is homeworking, reduced hours, job shares, flexi hours, term-time working or some other form of working differently from the traditional 9-5 Monday-Friday. A recent Capability Jane webinar pointed out some of the factors which make it a no brainer:

  • The knowledge economy is more global and offers a more fluid working environment.
  • Demographics are changing – for instance, there are more women in the workforce – and employees want more power to define when and where their work occurs.
  • Many are questioning the traditional view that success is measured by how much you earn rather than how you work and your lifestyle.
  • It is calculated that 80% of employees will have a family at some point. Many, including a large percentage of parents, want to work flexibly – over half want to work from home ideally. Men want to take a more active part in parenting. Many older workers want a phased retirement and 1.1m will work past the age of 65. For 89% of those born after 1980 [Generation Y] work life balance is more important than salary.
  • People are voting with their feet. Many women have left work because of the lack of flexibility. Growing numbers are working for themselves.

Then there is the benefit of flexible working for business, including boosting retention and recruitment and increasing commitment and motivate. Moreover, increasing diversity through flexible working in turn makes for better business which better reflects consumers.

Flexible working also increases productivity [RBS found there was an over 90% increase with flexible working] and employee engagement.

It reduces absenteeism. Headset manufacturer Plantronics saw a reduction in absenteeism from 12% to 3% and turnover of staff fell from 15% to 3%.

Why aren’t businesses meeting that business case and demand by promoting new flexible roles? Sara Hill of Capability Jane said 34% of professional workers want to work flexibly, but only 6% of jobs were promoted on a flexible basis. “There is a huge gap between candidate demand and what is available,” she stated.

Offering flexible working from recruitment onwards opened jobs up to a wider talent pool, she added. That included putting flexible working as an option in job descriptions, questioning if hours for a role had to be set in stone and asking what level of responsiveness was necessary at any point in the day. “It’s about understanding the nature of the job and the level of responsiveness needed,” said Hill. Could a five-day job be done in four with an on call for emergencies? Could a full-time role be done by a job share? It was also about creating a level of trust that a person could manage their own time and managing expectations of part-time workers properly so they are not overworked or set up to fail.

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